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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tambellini's New Direction for Head Coach

As you all know, MacTavish was fired today. Here is a quote from Steve Tambellini's Live Press Conference on the New Direction:
"I have in my mind the type of coach that I'm looking for. We're going to be... people are going to ask: 'When do you think we're gonna have a coach in place?' and I'm going to say, 'When we get the right guy.' Unfortunately we have a few months to watch of hockey here - to think about potential people and people who will become available [...] we want an aggressive type of play... we want an emotional team... we want a team that is not standing on their heels."
  • we have a few months to watch of hockey
  • people who will become available
  • aggressive type of play
  • an emotional team
The last two points sound like the Oilers up until (1) the Stanley Cup playoffs of 05-06 and (2) the trade of Ryan Smyth. Afterwards, guys like Jason Smith followed, and much of what made the Oilers the Oilers was gone. I think Tambellini is trying to go back to those days of Oiler pride without sacrificing the kind of skill team Lowe has built.

Coaching Shortlist

Although I'm a big fan of Pat Quinn myself, extrapolating from what I think are big clues from Tambellini's press conference makes me think of two specific head coach candidates:
  • Ted Nolan
  • Paul MacLean
Ted Nolan has a reputation for coaching emotional, aggressive teams that have accountability and intensity. Tambellini has made it clear that he wants to build a stronger, grittier team and who better than Ted Nolan to craft such a squad? The flipside is that he has also been rumoured to alienated individual players and himself from the GMs and ownership group. With such few coaching stints in the last decade, its hard to evaluate him since the Islanders, his last stop, was also such a flawed NHL franchise - flawed like anything that has to do with Garth Snow.

Pat Quinn is also capable of coaching intense, aggressive teams in an "old school" kind of fashion. But is he a long term solution? I don't think so. His age and coaching style might be at odds with some of the players on this team.

As for Paul MacLean, he has been rumoured a few times as a potential candidate for the Oilers. The current Detroit Red Wings assistant coach is a free agent this summer and has a lot of experience with special teams. When Tambellini spoke of waiting a few months and waiting for certain guys to become available, I think that points to MacLean being on his shortlist.

Also of consideration is Brent Sutter, who has been rumoured extensively and is currently coaching the New Jersey Devils in the playoffs. He's another guy for whom the Oilers would have to wait to become available.

Potential Coach Shortlist (extrapolated from Tambellini)
  • Ted Nolan
  • Paul MacLean
  • Pat Quinn?
Rumoured Names
  • Brent Sutter
  • Marc Crawford
  • Marc Habscheid
  • Randy Cunneyworth
  • Mark Messier
I don't support the rumour of Mark Messier becoming head coach based purely on lack of NHL coaching experience. Sure, Kevin Lowe did it. Craig MacTavish did it. But the Oilers and Tambellini are setting the bar high this time and I think Mark Messier would be most useful in an assistant coach position at this point in time.

One thing is clear though ... our next head coach better not be Kelly Buchberger.

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